Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Whether you like a vinaigrette or a creamy dressing, you only need a few simple ingredients (and a couple minutes) to make salad dressing yourself -- all without the extra calories, sugar and sodium that comes with the packaged stuff.

Dressing being poored into a glass pitcher

Bottled salad dressings are my pet peeve -- the majority of them are full of sodium, sugar and other preservatives. Whether you like a vinaigrette or the creamy stuff, you only need a few simple ingredients (and a couple minutes) to make some yourself.

Dressing Basics

There are endless rows of bottled dressings at the grocery store. Depending on the kind, they are usually high in fat, sugar or both -- and they all have too much sodium. You may think it’s wise to opt for the lower-calorie offerings but light and low-fat dressings often have even more sugar to make up for the lack of flavor.

To ensure you're getting real ingredients, homemade is the way to go, but watch those portions. A vinaigrette may seem lighter but most are made predominantly from oils, which offer heart-healthy but unavoidable calories. Keep serving sizes to a tablespoon. You can store most homemade dressings in the fridge for up to a week (not that a batch will last that long!).

A Simple Vinaigrette

Just join some sort of acid, oil and flavorings and -- ta-da! -- you have salad dressing! You can use vinegar or citrus juice for your acid. For oil, choose extra virgin olive oil if you want some olive flavor or canola or grapeseed oil if you want something neutral. Turn up the flavor with minced shallot or garlic, fresh or dried herbs, cumin, paprika or mustard -- all those add minimal calories. Try orange juice, honey, jam or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

For a basic vinaigrette, combine one part acid to two parts oil, but that’s not mandatory. Taste as you go and adjust according to your preference.

Creamier Choices

Mayo or sour cream make for creamy dressings but the calories coming from fat pile up. Thick and rich Greek yogurt is the key to a lighter creamy dressing. Using low-fat buttermilk or light sour cream will also lower the total fat. Try pureed avocado or almond butter to add unsaturated fat (much more heart healthy).

Another Favorite: Honey Mustard

This recipe below doesn’t use oil so it’s low in fat and calories. This dressing works on more than salad greens -- use it as a veggie dip or spread some on sandwiches.

Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing

Makes 3/4 cup
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup reduced fat (2%) Greek style yogurt
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to a resealable jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Nutrition Info (per tablespoon):

Calories: 30; Total Fat: 0 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Carbohydrates: 7 grams; Protein: 0.5 grams; Sodium: 133 milligrams; Cholesterol: 0.5 milligrams; Fiber: 0 gram

Asian-Inspired Picks

I love sesame dressing but my favorite brand had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I came up with my own. Toss this with mixed greens and sliced cucumber, rice noodles or use as a marinade for chicken or fish.

Sesame Ginger Dressing

Makes 1 cup
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup ginger-lime syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 scallion, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden; set aside to cool. In resealable jar, combine ginger-lime syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, scallion, lime juice, canola oil, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Cover, shake well and serve. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Ginger-Lime Syrup

Makes enough for 2 batches of dressing
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, cut into large chunks

Lime zest (use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to peel off one strip -- about 1/4 of the lime)

Combine ingredients in small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove lime and ginger, transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Nutrition Info (per tablespoon):

Calories: 62; Total Fat: 5.5 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Carbohydrate: 4 grams; Protein: 0 grams; Sodium: 63 milligrams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Fiber: 0 gram

TELL US: What's your favorite salad dressing?
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